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How to get paid what you're worth - advice for vets, nurses & veterinary practice owners

Posted in Our Community @ Sep 3rd 2015 - By Dr Liz Chmurycz, Russell Vale Animal Clinic
How To Get Paid What Youre Worth Advice For Vets Nurses And Practice Owners

"How do we get paid what we're worth?"

Thiis is a challenging question for anyone in any industry or job, not just for veterinarians. The principles however, are the same – to be paid the money you are worth, you need to offer something which is unique and special.

However for the veterinary industry, we are now faced with the situation that we, as a general rule, are now no longer unique or special. 

The question on how to get paid what you are worth has many prongs:

  • How do employed veterinarians get paid what they are worth?

  • How do business owners get paid what they are worth? 

  • How do we convince the pet owner that we are great value for money for the services that we provide them?

All three questions are intertwined in such a way that if we are able to convince the pet owner of our value, then the other two will follow by default.

It seems that a fair chunk of phones calls to my vet hospital these days seem to be phone shoppers. This seems to indicate that veterinary services are slowly eroding away from being perceived by the pet owner as a premium/unique transformational item, and are now, more than ever, considered a price determined commodity.  

Veterinary services now seen as a price driven commodity? Why is this trend happening?

It isn’t as simple as “too many veterinarians” or “it’s all because of corporates”  although they are part of the equation. And you definitely cannot place the blame on the “feminisation of the profession”, although undoubtedly some will try!

It suits the corporate model for veterinary services to be seen as a commodity, as this is where they derive their business growth.  They are no different to McDonalds or Bunnings in that pet owners are mobile, and for them, a Corporate branded veterinary hospital is like a McDonalds – a known, recognised quantity, irrespective of whether they are good or bad.

Reversing this trend of veterinary services being seen as a commodity and directing back to the perception of 'premium' or being ‘transformational' is simple, and equally difficult.  For the Corporate type business model it will be impossible for them to achieve this and it is not even in their best interest to do so. The Corporate Model has developed service items that are by default a commodity product.  If individual businesses attempt to mimic the corporates, they will doom themselves to mediocrity. 

Perhaps this is part of the problem?

For individual, independent veterinary businesses, it should be about continuing to do what we do best – being innovative, creative, providing exceptional, uncompromising, personal service…even to the point of being considered a 'boutique’ veterinary service provider.  A boutique provider should be selective about which products to link with – if chosen wisely, it will create an authenticity and true-to-self image that every corporate-type business will envy.

You also need to value yourself

On either side of the veterinary business model, in order to get paid what you are worth you need to value yourself and the types of services that are offered. It is not about just raising prices, but also about ensuring that there are no missed charges.  Corporate business models appear to be better at this than many independent businesses and it's one of the many benefits of creating systems, which every business is capable of doing.

Getting away from the business model reason as to why many veterinarians are inadequately reimbursed for their knowledge, skills and humanity, how many of us stop to really think about how special we are as veterinarians?   

Most of us have studied, sacrificed and worked hard to get to where we are now. This is an achievement that we should be proud of.

To the employee that wants a pay rise....

To the employee who wants a pay rise, you need to create value in the services you offer your employer.  Your veterinary degree and the type of veterinary work you do isn’t enough – it should be, but it isn’t.  You also need to have the confidence to ask your employer for a pay rise. If they decline, ask what steps you need to take to get that pay increase.  If you have been working in a practice for six months or more, you should have earned, and be given a pay increase.

Do you need better negotiating skills? Probably. You are not alone if you lack the confidence to say “I am worth more than what I am being paid right now”. Business owners equally struggle with this, as many also lack confidence when they ask their clients for money.  

Finally, we need to abolish slave labour in our profession, and fight against the suggestion of unpaid internships for graduated first year veterinarians (as was mentioned at the PanPac 2015 conference). 

Veterinarians – young and old - we have earned the right to be paid what we are worth – it is up to us to determine what that value is, and then fight for it. 

About Liz

Dr Liz Chmurycz is a  companion animal veterinarian, based at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, in Wollongong, Australia. As a solo vet and business owner, she is also a mother of four children. She is passionate about the veterinary profession, and the animals she sees. 

You can read Dr Liz's Blog here: Dr Liz...the vet from Russell Vale Animal Clinic

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